A husband and wife are building a new future for themselves after overcoming the heartbreak of redundancy by launching a stonemasonry business.
Julie and Dylan Williams, co-owners of Stoneworkz Industries, have secured a series of lucrative contracts across the UK since Denbighshire County Council awarded them a business development grant to cover the cost of specialised machinery to meet increasing demand.
The £5,000 grant, which funded a specialised saw for cutting stone and a bespoke water tank, enabled the Denbigh-based firm to improve its efficiency and fulfil bigger orders and has been instrumental to their growth.
The business now employs three full-time staff, has plans to recruit another and is preparing to launch its first showroom on the Spencer Trading Estate in the autumn.
“It’s going very well. It’s been hard and we’ve both had to work very long hours but we’re so pleased with the way the business is being built so far and we’re hoping to grow further,” said Julie, who lives in Denbigh.
“At the beginning, when we launched, we wouldn’t have thought we would have a showroom and a workshop within a year so we’re really pleased. We’re going in the direction we’d planned to.
“The grant was a huge help to us. Financially, we just didn’t have the back-up. We’ve both taken a big drop in income to be able to start the business and build it which has been our personal financial contribution.
“We’re trying not to take much money out of the business to be able to move forward. The grant has helped us grow according to our demand.”
Julie, 48, has been working in the industry 11 years while her husband Dylan, 39, has more than 16 years’ experience.
The couple, who have three children aged 10, 20, 27, were working for the same local stone supplier when Julie was made redundant from her management position. Although she took on a temporary role at another firm, the couple wanted to apply their vast experience and knowledge by building their own firm.
“The decision to set up a business was mine initially. Being made redundant was the key thing and the driving force behind the decision,” said Julie.
“We were both in management positions and we realised we both had put in so much effort for someone else – we’d really given it 100 per cent – and we didn’t want to do that again and still have no control over our jobs being taken away from us.
“It was scary but we had more control over the decisions that were being made. One of our key advantages as a business is the amount of time we are both willing to invest in our customers to find them the materials that they really want. We will go out of our way to find the best price or style options to fit perfectly into a project.”
The business launched in June 2015 and it quickly became apparent that further investment was needed to acquire stone and brick cutting machinery so that they could fulfil orders in-house.
They applied for a business grant from Denbighshire County Council at the start of this year and were delighted when it was accepted.
“It was an expensive type of business to start and we didn’t have anything behind us except for an initial start-up loan,” said Julie.
“We needed to get more machinery and the grant was specifically for that.
“It enabled us to take a step forward to do the work our clients were asking for and grow our business. As a result, we’re now working with a Warrington-based company that delivers hotel refurbishments internationally and have fulfilled orders in Guernsey and Jersey. We’re also working with a high-end kitchen supplier, undertaking work in the Devon area.
“Our work is nationwide and our name is getting out there but there’s more work to do. We’ve not pushed too hard as we need to get our staff fully trained up but it already seems to be working. We’re looking forward to the future.”
Kirsty Davies, Business Support and Networking Officer for Denbighshire County Council, said its grant scheme had helped many local firms grow at a faster rate than they might otherwise have done without financial support.
“Small businesses face so many hurdles in the early days, particularly in relation to equipment and premises – both of which require considerable investment.
“Our grant scheme helps to alleviate some of these and allow businesses to grow confidently, boosting the economy and creating new jobs.
“It’s very rewarding to see this investment transpire into lucrative business contracts and achieve everything it is designed to do.”
Hugh Evans OBE, Leader of Denbighshire County Council said: “The business grants are part of our Economic and Community Ambition Strategy which is helping to create flourishing private businesses, job growth and higher household incomes in the county.”